Remi Wolf Plays By Her Own Rules in Music — And Life

“I just have a very specific taste, and I kind of go with what my heart tells me to do,” the 25-year-old pop singer tells Los Angeles Magazine

Like any young millennial hovering on the border of Generation Z (and much to the chagrin of older folks, who may or may not just be jealous), Remi Wolf doesn’t believe in labels.

“I just have a very specific taste, and I kind of go with what my heart tells me to do,” she told Los Angeles while lounging on her couch in Echo Park.

The 25-year-old pop singer appeared on American Idol, was later signed to a major label (the Universal imprint Island), and has worked with legends like Beck and Nile Rodgers.

John Mayer is an outspoken fan. But her music—a genre-less mishmash that she has reluctantly termed—funky soul pop—is hardly what most would consider mainstream. She barks improvised half-rapped lyrics rhyming “Los Feliz” with “Chuck E. Cheese” while also excelling at throaty R&B-inspired vocals that recall Amy Winehouse. She fills her songs with live instrumentation and leans on comic sound effects. Sometimes, she bares her ass on Instagram; other times, she dresses in multicolored outfits that conjure Björk, Lil’ Kim, and/or a 1970s Harlem pimp. She has a collection of roughly 50 hats, many of them brightly colored and feathery.

“My entire wardrobe is pretty much from a thrift store. And I’m a bit of a hoarder. I don’t like throwing away clothes, so I just have a lot of shit,” she said. “I really draw from everything. A lot of it is subconscious. I’m not trying to go for anything specific.”

That whatever-goes ethos extends to Wolf’s music. When asked about the mission statement of her debut album, Juno, out now, she said, “I don’t really work like that. I don’t have a strong thesis or whatever.”

Instead, Juno is named for the French bulldog she adopted in the early days of the pandemic because, well, he was around. Despite her allergies (she has an EP called I’m Allergic to Dogs!), Juno hasn’t left her side since. “He went through everything with me. He was in every single writing session. He’s been my partner and literally my emotional support dog. He’s my best friend.” (She’s gotten used to the sneezing, too.)

As off-the-cuff as Wolf’s work might appear, she’s been rigorously training for this moment. She started singing at ten and writing songs at 15. While in high school (and juggling Youth Olympic ski racing), she formed a duo with a friend called Remi and Chloe, and showed promise as a vocal powerhouse. At 17, hoping to study music in college, she trained with a vocal coach who “had a friend who I guess worked somewhere in the American Idol, uh, corporation,” Wolf says and laughs.

So she skipped the lines and made it onto the show, advancing to Hollywood Week and placing among the top 150 contestants. She now considers it a “blip in my story” that was nevertheless instructive. “I didn’t love the whole production of it,” she says. “It just really pulled the curtain back on what was actually going on.”

Wolf went on to study music at the University of Southern California, but she wasn’t much happier with the structure there. “There’s a lot of aspects of school I actively try to forget about,” she says, citing music theory class. But, she says, the language she acquired still helps her “get my point across” in the studio, “so that’s cool.” But her true, “colossal” education came in the form of living in a house with ten other musicians. “We would jam all day and write music and hang out. We saw shows and threw parties, and I think that’s where my spirit is. That’s where I learned how to collaborate.”

That’s also where her alcohol abuse began. In the summer of 2020, she did a stint in rehab and has been sober since. She says the new album “wouldn’t exist had I not gotten sober during quarantine. I don’t think I would’ve had the self-reflection. That was something I felt like I had to address, or else I would be . . . lying.”

Wolf says this as if honesty, not artifice, were quintessential to being a pop star. In her unflinching openness about her pains and joys, along with her agnostic sonic mixing, Wolf gets lumped in with musicians like Halsey, Brockhampton, and Dominic Fike. She doesn’t think she sounds like these other artists but concedes that they’re all roughly the same age and grew up listening to, and being influenced by, the same eclectic music.

“We’re all pretty free,” she says.

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